Holding signs declaring “God Hates Obama,”America is Doomed” and “Mourn for Your Sins,” 14 members of Westboro Baptist Church clashed with onlookers on Pennsylvania Avenue during Inauguration Day protests.

The Topeka, Kan., Church, which is a fundamentalist organization, gained notoriety after its members began protesting at funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to its Web site, the church teaches that these deaths – as well as the fatalities from all natural disasters and warfare – are the just wrath of a vengeful god.

On Tuesday, on the Northeast corner of John Marshall Memorial Park on Pennsylvania Avenue, the small group of church members protested President Obama’s election and the state of the country, specifically the the war in Iraq and new government’s approval of homosexuality.

“Obama is going to lead this nation and world to her final destruction. The faster, the better,” Westboro member Rachel Hockenbarger said.

The protesters chanted “Anti-Christ, Anti-Christ, Anti-Christ,” referring to Obama.

The protesters often stopped to argue with onlookers for several minutes at a time.

At one point, the demonstrators accosted a lesbian couple by shouting at them and told them that they were bound for eternal damnation.

From the morning to the end of the inaugural parade, passers-by engaged the protestors in heated exchanges.

“Do you think you’re going to Heaven by hating people?” asked one.

The National Park Service, which granted the group a permit to protest the inauguration, accepted other similar requests for permits to protest from a variety of other organizations. The Coalition for Peace gathered in Lafayette Park and the Christian Defense Coalition held a pro-life vigil near the Canadian Embassy. The coalition set up large signs with pictures of an infant’s development over each month of pregnancy through its birth. Another sign read, “America’s Holocaust: Abortion.”

Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, was pleased to be granted a permit to protest at the inauguration despite the controversial nature of the vigil.

“I first want to thank the National Park Service for respecting free speech and the First Amendment,” he said.

Another group of approximately 10 religious protestors assembled on the National Mall near the Washington Monument carrying signs stating that “God Hates Sports Nuts” and “The Wages of Sin is Death,” though they denied connections to Westboro Baptist Church.

“We’re here preaching the word of Christ,” said Ted Snyder, who used a megaphone to communicate his message to often irritated onlookers. “We want to make sure people don’t affiliate us with those people. We have no idea what those wackos are doing,” he added, referring to the members of Westboro Baptist.

Check out The Hoya’s city blog, Outside the Gates, for more inauguration recaps and student experiences.

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